Ralf Rangnick’s tenure as Manchester United manager got off to a winning start on Sunday, as his side saw off Crystal Palace 1-0 at Old Trafford. It wasn’t a spectacular performance, with Fred netting the game’s only goal late in the second half, but there were some signs that the German is already beginning to stamp a new tactical imprint on his motley charges.
United were on top throughout the first half, imposing themselves on their opponents with the kind of high-pressing game we’d hoped for in the build-up. United’s first chance, however, came from a set piece, when Alex Telles received a short corner on the edge of the Palace box, and curled a fine effort narrowly wide.
By the midway point in the first half, Rangnick’s side were in total control of the game. A long pass from Victor Lindelöf stretched the Palace defence, though Cristiano Ronaldo fired straight at Vicente Guaita after a layoff from Marcus Rashford. Two minutes later, Ronaldo leapt to knock a long ball down for Bruno Fernandes, whose scuffed volley drew a more acrobatic stop from the Spanish keeper.
In stoppage time, Diogo Dalot and Scott McTominay combined in a smart one-two, though the Portuguese right-back blazed a wild shot over the crossbar from the right side of the penalty area. For all their hustle and bustle, United couldn’t find a breakthrough.
The second half was a rather more low-key affair, in which United’s intensity dropped and Palace gained a foothold. Chances were few and far between, and Rangnick looked to shake things up on the hour by introducing Mason Greenwood in place of a quiet Jadon Sancho. Soon, teenage attacker Anthony Elanga was brought on in Rashford’s stead.
Palace should have taken the lead with 15 minutes left. Eagles centre-half James Tomkins flicked a corner towards Jordan Ayew at the near post, though the Ghanaian attacker dragged his shot across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
It proved a particularly costly miss, as just a couple of minutes later, Fred popped up to score what proved to be the match-winning goal. Greenwood offloaded to the Brazilian, arriving on the edge of the penalty area, and his first-time effort arced beyond a hapless Guaita and into the top corner. It was a brilliant goal, and fittingly marked by a celebratory jig.
Rangnick refused to shut up shop, and with five minutes to go introduced Donny van de Beek in lieu of Bruno Fernandes. The Dutchman will doubtless be hoping that the new coach will be willing to use him as more than a super-sub in the coming matches. Unsurprisingly, van de Beek didn’t have enough time to put his stamp on the game, with the final whistle sounding at 1-0.